A kingdom for a new laptop!

So, this MacBook Pro from 2009 is still running and serves me well. Upgraded to 8GB RAM and equipped with a 128GB SSD drive, can't complain too much. But sometimes it's really slow, especially the CPU has a hard time keeping up with serving a couple of virtual machines at once. So, maybe it's time for a hardware refresh.

I've been scanning the websites of the usual suspects for some time now but still haven't had any luck. I tend to come back to the same sites but for some reason they never have the right machine that suits my requirements. So, what are my requirements?

  • Fast (i.e. 4th Generation Intel i7)
  • at least 16GB RAM, 128GB SSD
  • preferably Intel HD Graphics, as its Linux support is superb
  • Bluetooth and a webcam with reasonable resolution would be nice too. Bonus points if the power cord is able to handle european power outlets too (as the MagSafe does)
  • Linux should run just fine
  • Not too big, at most 14". Otherwise I can just buy a desktop machine.
  • Good looking. This will be a tough one.
Btw, what's wrong with the current MacBook Pro models? Well, the fastest one comes pretty close: 2.9GHz Intel i7 (albeit "only" in its 3rd Generation, "Ivy Bridge"), Intel HD Graphics 4000, can be ordered with an SSD hard drive, aluminium chassis. But takes only 8GB of memory - and they cannot be upgraded wrt to system memory or storage. While I can live with an 128GB SSD for some years, 8 GB of RAM is just not enough. Still, these MacBook Pro models score enough points in my book with their webcam and its design. But they're just awful when it comes to running Linux, there's so much b0rkage and their WiFi card most probably will need special firmware - I can't deal with this shit any more.

Let's have a look at the most promising contenders, shall we?
  • A ThinkPadTM would be cool. Of course! Built from Lenovo now but still a brand name to remember. Checked out their "online shop"...and almost turned around. Who designs such crap? The only reasonable filter was the CPU type, the rest of the filters were about "weight" (5 to 6 lbs...are you kidding? Who would select "heavy, please"?) or operating system (again: why should I care? I can install any OS on it anyway!). Well, the best thing they had was a ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook, but "only" with a 3rd generation Intel i7 CPU and also 8GB memory. I guess one could upgrade to more RAM later on. But their product descriptions are just unusable? How is "ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook" vs "ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook with Professional Operating System" helpful? Or even descriptive? In smallprint one can see that the latter has a faster CPU and more memory. And all their models list as a feature "Integrated Battery" - really, in a laptop? They really need to get their act together when it comes to web shops.

  • Next up: DELL. All the business people have it, so it should be OK, right? Pro: they have already laptops with the 4th generation Intel i7 CPU and offer "12GB & up" on memory, yay! And one can also check "Intel" as a video card. Could we have a winner here? But when all those options are checked, only two laptops over 14" are left (15.6in/3.0 GHz and 17.3in/1.8 GHz). Both (somewhat) good looking, but too large for my taste. And both are delivered with spinning rust - ugh...one step forward, one step back?

  • What else? HP? Hahahaha...excuse me :-) Yes, they may have had a good time selling printers back then but they suck at designing personal computers. Have you seen their laptops? I have: a monstrosity of cheap plastic entangled with mediocre hardware, just awful. Their bestTM device under 15" is a HP Split 13t-m000 x2 PC (whatever that means. Who thinks of these names?) which comes with an 1.5GHz Intel i5 CPU and 8GB memory. No, thanks.

  • There's also Toshiba. Hm, really? Well, let's give it a try. Their web shop presents me with "shop by family" (how would I know?) or "show by category": value/performance/thin&light - yes, everything please! Finally found it, at the bottom of the page, "See all laptops". Checked Intel i7 (only 3rd gen), max 14" and Intel graphics, webcam and SSD and had still 7 products to choose from - not bad! Added 8GB RAM and "more than 6 hours battery life" to it - and we're down to one result: a Toshiba Portege Z930-BT9300 Ultrabook (again, who thinks of these names? How is a customer supposed to remember this?). And it still can be thoroughly customized, I'm kinda impressed. But also wary of Toshiba, what good are they when it comes to laptops?

I'd have wished for a ThinkPad to win this race but with these few options available I don't see this happening. And I don't see a Toshiba laptop to serve me just yet. Luckily my MacBook Pro is still holding up, so let's hope it survives another year...and then the hunt begins again :-\